Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holed up in a hotel near Amsterdam docks, and deterred from venturing into the city in the evenings by wind, wet, cold and dark, I've been passing the time reading Andrew Duncan's 'The Council of Heresy'. A book about difficult modern poetry which makes you laugh out loud - intentionally - can't be bad. Duncan is a dazzling writer, so much so, that I find myself questioning whether I'm being taken in, and his ideas are spurious: I don't think they are, it's just that I'm not used to literary criticism being entertaining. Maybe I should just relax and enjoy it.

I've just read a section called 'Games of the Gifted: Cryptic Canons' in which reading Tom Raworth and Allen Fisher is equated with the mental games that gifted children play when bored in the classroom: "It's arguable that the withdrawal from the High Street poetry scene is a re-enactment of the withdrawal of a seven-year-old child from the classroom into a private world full of games and protected by dissociation".

Duncan also discusses the fear of boredom as a powerful force first encountered in childhood: "...if intelligent people have a paranoid fear of reading Tony Harrison, it's not to do with social conflict, it's just because they're frightened of being bored", though he points out later that "many people are bored by avant-garde poetry too".

There's a chapter later in the book (I'm only part-way through) entitled "The Avant-Garde and East European Cults". I can't imagine how that'll pan out, but can't wait to read it. Cracking stuff, highly recommended.


John B-R said...

Do you experience boredom. I haven't been bored since I hit puberty. SOmetimes I thought I was bored; I wasn't; I was just unhappy.

Ed Baker said...

is the Hanson Hotel still there?

It is/was on Konensinwag

not too far from Rembrant's Plein ( or some such street)

about 5 blocks from The Ghetto and Ann Frank's House..

I could tell you a story about the wharfs and working (without papers) on a ship!

is The Dam Square yet vibrant? & the "red-light" district?

Alan Baker said...

I do experience boredom, and I have, if not a fear, then a dread of it. It's something I'm working on, though I believe bordom can be fruitful. The Buddha taught that boredom is one of the five hindrances to enlightenment.

Don't know about the hotel Ed, but from our holiday this summer I can confirm that Dam Square is still vibrant, and the red-light is still in business. But all I saw this time were offices, docks, airport, hotel...

Ed Baker said...


I FOUND The Hansen Hotel

thy changed the name WOW

and added an awning.

the place to the left had a large window where girls sat

I became friends with one of them
... a girl from Norway who was in Amsterdam "working" her way through University.

we used to go to The Paradisio where many of the dope dealers from The Dam used to party...

after a year in Lindos Amsterdam was WOW-WOW!

I was working chipping paint on a cargo ship tied-up to a dock...

the night I got paid walked around the corner and got arrested... for working without papers.. thrown into jail money confiscated..

a real racket between the boat people and the police they got a week's free work the police got the money and I wired home for a plane ticket out! 1970!

I can truthfully say "Amsterdam made me the Poet that I am today."

if I was 40 years younger I'd live (for a -while) in Amsterdam..

the greatest City in Youre-up!

richard lopez said...

i'm like john, i haven't been bored since i was maybe 8 years old. too much to do and if not doing then simply thinking or making an attempt at thinking which is not boring.

interesting tho, joseph brodsky published a commencement address advising the graduating class to embrace boredom because the state of boredom can be a metaphysical state and is larger than the sufferer and hence becomes a reminder of one's being finite since boredom is time immutable and thus becomes a lesson in humility.

Aidan Semmens said...

I seldom do boredom these days, but I'd stick up for it. In fact, I think boredom is one of the essential traits of humanity that makes us what we are (whether that's a good or bad thing is of course open to question). Boredom leads to reflection, which leads in turn to mental play, hence invention, creativity etc. I worry that the flood of gadgetry all designed to protect young people from being bored will lead to a generation who never reflect or engage in idle mental activity and hence lose touch with their innate inventiveness. That their creative potential has all been delegated to a few designers of computer games and the like.
Or is that just me being a grumpy old man?

Aidan Semmens said...

Oh, and I meant to say Amen to this:
"It's arguable that the withdrawal from the High Street poetry scene is a re-enactment of the withdrawal of a seven-year-old child from the classroom into a private world full of games and protected by dissociation".
That seems to me to sum up the whole nature and purpose of what we do remarkably well.
Are Duncan's ideas spurious? Some of them, quite possibly, but they nearly all serve the admirable purpose of leading the brain in a good and enjoyable workout. A sub-text of that is, it seems to me, to question the whole idea of what "spurious" means in such a context.
I haven't read the book you speak of, but from what you say of it, I think I should. (If and when I can raise my head above the parapet of Russian history, that is... ;-) )

Alan Baker said...

I agree Aidan - boredom is an essential part of childhood for the reasons you give, and probably of adulthood as well. Though John and Richard seem to do pretty well without it.